- By Anthony Zurcher
- North America correspondent
There was a whiff of desperation in the air at the second Republican debate in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
The seven candidates on the stage all trail Donald Trump by a significant margin in the race for the party’s nomination, so his rivals knew they had to do something to change the dynamic of the campaign.
And during a chaotic two-hour debate, they often tried to do it at once, talking over each others, the moderators and sometimes themselves.
“Thank you for talking while I’m interrupting,” Vivek Ramaswamy told Tim Scott snidely in what was a telling Freudian slip.
Here’s a look at some of the key moments from the debate – and who benefitted and suffered from them.
Trump is ‘missing in action’
Are Ron DeSantis’s gloves finally coming off?
Early in the Republican debate, Chris Christie took a swipe at Donald Trump for adding to the national debt while he was president. That was not surprising or new from this longtime Trump critic. What happened next, however, was.
Mr DeSantis quickly chimed in and said that the former president was “missing in action” because he skipped this debate and should have been on the stage to defend his deficit spending as president.
The Florida governor’s quick trigger on an attack indicates he may be pivoting from his past efforts to avoid taking the former president head-on. That strategy hinged on Mr DeSantis being a clear and attractive alternative for 2020 Trump voters who have grown tired of the former president.
But Mr Trump’s base has been sticking with him. So Mr DeSantis may have decided he has to take the former president down if he wants to have any hope of catching him – or even closing the gap – in the polls before voting starts in January.
The problem for Mr DeSantis, of course, is that it’s a lot harder to land blows on a candidate who is more than a thousand miles away. So the governor’s “missing in action” swipe could reveal a hint of frustration at his current predicament.
Vivek the punching bag (again)
Vivek Ramaswamy came into last month’s debate riding an upswing in the polls. That put a target on the quick-tongued businessman for some of his rivals, including Mike Pence, Nikki Haley and Mr Christie.
New debate, same story. In fact, this time around even more of Mr Ramaswamy’s opponents joined the fray. In what was clearly a planned attack, South Carolina’s Tim Scott went after Mr Ramaswamy for doing business with China earlier in his career.
Mr Ramaswamy noted that he had stopped his China dealings, but that opened him up for a swipe by Mr Pence, who said he must have pulled out of China in 2018 – at about the same time the 38-year-old candidate started voting in presidential elections.
“Every time I hear you, I feel a little dumber,” Ms Haley said.
Mr Ramaswamy’s competitors view him as a threat. The personal nature of the attacks also suggest that some of them also just don’t like the political newcomer, full stop.
A striking change of tone on strikes
The Republican Party used to be the pro-business, anti-union party. As South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has pointed out, Ronald Reagan – in whose presidential library this debate is taking place – fired federal air traffic controllers when they went on strike in 1981.
Republican sensibilities on this matter seem to be changing, however. And like a lot of changes in the Republican Party, it’s because of Donald Trump has shifted the party’s base toward working-class voters.
This new sensibility was well illustrated by Mr Ramaswamy’s response to a question about the striking autoworkers in Michigan, saying he has “a lot of sympathy” for the striking workers who “have gone through a lot of hardship.”
There once was a time when every Republican on a debate stage would have condemned a striking union and sided wholeheartedly with businesses on the other side of a labour dispute.
This story will be updated throughout the debate.
Follow us on Facebook : https://web.facebook.com/wacnews
To receive the latest news on your phone using the Telegram application, click here: https://t.me/+KMdLTc0qS6ZkMGI0
Send us a message by Whatsapp : Whatsapp +44 7476844931